No One Can Pronounce My Name

No One Can Pronounce My Name, the second novel by Rakesh Satyal (Blue Boy), pays a humorous, loving visit to the Indian immigrant community of Cleveland, Ohio, where a handful of oddballs and outsiders come together to form a circle of support that changes their lives.

Middle-aged Harit doesn't know how to talk to his mother after his sister, Swati, dies in a freak accident. Shy and socially maladroit, he works in sales in a department store, where he becomes friends with flamboyant coworker Teddy, who introduces Harit to alcohol at their local T.G.I. Fridays.

Newly minted empty nester Ranjana thinks her husband, Mohan, has a girlfriend. Not wanting to become the subject of gossip, she keeps her suspicions from her friends and throws herself into writing a vampire novel. At her day job as a receptionist at a proctology clinic, she forges a friendship with Achyut, a young gay patient and bartender, leading her outside her comfort zone and bringing Harit into her orbit.

No One Can Pronounce My Name meditates on immigrants' lifelong struggle for acceptance in the U.S., but also demonstrates that the support of communities of friends can make all the difference. Though the main players' specific circumstances are different, all face loneliness and struggles with identity. Satyal delves deeply into each character's past and psyche, mining fragility and heartache like rare jewels. While the introspection at times slows the action, the natural outgrowth of situational comedy balances the pace. Satyal never plays his characters for fools, though, and book clubs will find rich fodder for discussion in this sparkling, deeply felt story of emotional growth. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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